The Sarasota County Commissioners unanimously endorsed proceeding with extending The Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota at their 1 April 2015 meeting. The room was filled with many trail supporters wearing bright yellow FLT jerseys and others wearing colorful bike club jerseys. Thank you to the many Legacy Trail supporters for your visible support!
FLT Vice President Bruce Dillion began the discussion saying FLT had raised over $72 thousand in about a year to support the trail extension. There are more than 120,000 annual trail users. County Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Patrick Lui then gave the Commissioners a summary of the Feasibility Study completed by Cardno TBE. Lui asked the Commissioners to (1) approve the Feasibility Study and (2) direct the County Administrator to proceed with land appraisals for the railroad corridor.
A enthusiastic discussion about the trail extension followed. Commissioner Caragiulo: “How do we find ways to do this?” “It absolutely needs to be done.” Commissioner Maio: “ We’ve done some 125 fund raising events, and people say this is the greatest thing the County has ever done.” “This is a top priority.” Commissioner Hines: “Let’s get a contract, subject to an appraisal and any environmental issues.” “Let’s get this moving. Figure out the cost and get the money.” Commissioner Robinson: “Both the North and South trail extensions are important.” “Proceed with appropriate speed. Let’s get going.” She also expressed concern about federal lawsuits on reversionary rights in rail corridor transfers to public use.
Doug Hattaway from the Trust for Public Lands was in attendance and was asked to speak. TPL negotiated the purchase of the existing Legacy Trail with CSX, and is involved with similar sales across the U.S. Hattaway urged the Commissioners to proceed with the appraisal to answer the question ‘how much money are you looking for.” He said CSX is open to a purchase proposal. When asked how long would this take, Hathaway replied TPL has a contract template they are using with CSX at other locations. He estimated 2 months to tailer the contract, then 3 months to do the appraisals. The county needed to develop an acquisition strategy and line up possible funding sources.
In addressing funding options, Lui stated that the County staff was pursuing a Federal Tiger Grant, as previously approved by the Commissioners. There are potential federal, state and local funds. Chairman Maio suggested that the proposed changes to local impact fees are a potential funding source. Commissioner Caragiulo said that the trail extension would be a great spine through the county. “I would be looking under every couch, garbage can or cabinet for this money, because it has to get done.” He suggested assigning a full time county employee to work funding opportunities.
FLT appreciates the firm commitment from the Commissioners to both recommendations. We will continue to gather petitions and speaking engagements to build community support.
A video of the Commissioners discussion is available on the right hand sidebar.
“All aboard The Legacy Trail. Next stop, downtown Sarasota!”